$12m Pegasus trumps Dubai as world's richest horse race

1 race. 12 horses. $12 million on the line. And, for some reason, Conor McGregor.

Neil Churchill January 25, 2017

Dubai likes its records: world’s biggest mall, world’s largest man-made island, world’s tallest building, etc. But its claim of hosting the world’s richest horse race will be lost this weekend when the inaugural $12 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational takes place in the US.

The new richest thoroughbred horse race on the planet, which is named after the winged stallion in Greek mythology, is restricted to just 12 horses with each owner paying $1 million for a starting gate, eclipsing the Dubai World Cup’s main event purse of $10 million. 

Organised by The Stronach Group and held at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida – which has a giant statue of Pegasus stood outside – the 1 1/8-mile long nine-furlong dirt race will be streamed live in an effort by the organisers to target a new generation of fans.

Stronach has also brought in UFC star Conor McGregor as an ambassador, of which the result has been a series of amusing videos. Called “The 13th Jockey”, the Lightweight Champion shows his acting credentials in a series of skits, which range from him staging a typically McGregor press conference to riding naked on a horse, with comedic actor Jon Lovitz in a supporting role. 

Organisers for the Dubai World Cup have said the 2017 purse will not be raised to meet or better Pegasus’s main event. The annual Dubai meet at Meydan will still be the richest weekend in the sport, as its nine-group races have combined winnings of $30 million. Pegasus’s other six races have a combined purse of just $1.15 million, meaning prize money for the entire day is less than half of Dubai’s. 

But it’s not just the financial limelight Pegasus has pinched from the UAE race; it has also stolen two of the sport’s biggest names. Neither Arrogate, recently named the world’s best horse, nor Dubai’s defending champion California Chrome will race at Meydan in March, but both will race at Pegasus. Chrome’s people have said that this weekend's race will be his last, while Arrogate’s trainer aims to keep him in America and prepare him for this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic.

The two horses contributed to the race of 2016 at the Breeders’ Cup in November, both pulling more than 10 lengths clear of third placed Keen Ice – also racing at Pegaus – with Arrogate winning by half a length. (Watch that race at the bottom of this page.)

The anticipation is that this weekend's rematch could well be the race of 2017. Throw in the $12 million purse and McGregor's cameo appearance and it's hard to deny that Gulfstream Park is the racing weekend to be at this year.